Get Gorgeous, Glowing Skin, From The Inside and Out!

Canadians are rock stars when it comes to turning a negative into a positive. Take our annual deep-freeze of a winter, for instance. Thinner-blooded folks might scurry for warmer climes south of the border, but we hearty Canadians strap on our skis, snowboards, and ice skates, and enjoy the few hours of sunlight the season affords us. Yes, we’re an adaptive lot, but our skin? Not so much.

Winter weather is tough on skin, our largest (and sometimes most neglected) organ. It can become dehydrated, dry and parched. High collared coats and scarves can cause chaffing of the chin and cheeks, and bitter winds can cause redness, rough patches, and uncomfortable tightness.

It’s enough to send you running to the beauty counter, cash in hand, on the hunt for relief from your winter-skin woes, but there’s a closer – and better – option available, and it’s right in your kitchen.

First, remember that the skin is nourished from the inside out. Dry, dull skin is the first symptom of a diet lacking in good-for-skin vitamins and nutrients. Starve your skin long enough, and you won’t suffer from a tight, dull complexion. Premature aging and even some chronic skin conditions, such as eczema, which can be linked to diet, could result.

Visit any beauty counter and chances are the advisor will tell you that vitamin A, sold in over the counter beauty products as retinol, does wonders for the skin. If you’d rather find it in your kitchen, serve up some low-fat, organic dairy products. They’re loaded with vitamin A! Internally, vitamin A is one of the most important factors contributing to skin health. It’s vital for the formation of healthy skin cells.

Antioxidants are also essential for healthy skin both now, and in the future. They protect the skin cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are essentially mutated cells. These culprits wreak havoc on healthy, surrounding cells, and they don’t just kill them; they damage their DNA. Altered DNA equals a mutated cell, which in turn grows abnormally and reproduces after its kind. When we talk DNA, we’re not just talking age-spots, premature wrinkling, and sagging of the skin – all major side-effects of free radical damage – we’re talking skin cancer. Cigarette smoke, pollution, and sunlight are all major contributors to free radicals in the skin.

Loading your diet with foods high in antioxidants guards against cell destruction and premature aging, and luckily for us, Mother Nature has provided us with a bounty of such foods. Recently, The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry conducted a study in which blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and plums were singled out for their high antioxidant content. They had the highest “total antioxidant capacity” of any food, which makes them a must-have in your grocery cart.

Don’t forget, sun block is an absolute must when it comes to protecting your skin against the harmful effects of the sun. There are lots of eco and skin friendly options available, so read the labels and choose wisely.

Fatty acids are another factor essential for beautiful, healthy skin. You can find these skin-heroes in Salmon, Walnuts, Canola Oil, and Flax Seed.  When your diet is high in fatty acids, your skin shows it. It’s better able to retain vital moisture, which contributes to the glowing, plump, and fresh aspect of the skin.

High quality supplements are available at your local health food store, but getting your omega 3, the acid which many people lack, from your diet is always the best option.

Since we’re on the subject of fatty acids, let’s talk for a minute about Sofia Loren. Think of that gorgeous, nourished-from-within skin that helped make her famous, and yes, I’m going somewhere with this – specifically, to Italy, the home of olive oil. Good quality, cold pressed, expeller processed, or extra virgin olive oils are the ones you want on your table and in your body. They help your skin stay lubricated and radiant, which is a must at this time of year. Just remember that experts recommend no more than about two tablespoons a day.

The skin contains over 60% water, and if you want yours to be plump and hydrated, it’s essential to keep that percentage up there. If you’re one of those people who struggle to drink enough water or find the flavor bland, try flavoring your water with organic fruit. Many stores sell water bottles with fitted infusers. Toss in sliced strawberries, citrus, mint, or cucumber, and opt for glass whenever possible. Eliminate carbonated beverages and high sugar drinks from your diet if you can. These aren’t just bad for your body, they’re bad for your skin. Experts recommend about eight 8oz glasses per day.

Now that we’ve spent a little time nourishing skin from the inside, let’s focus on the outside.

After twenty years in the beauty business, my best beauty advice can be summed up in six words: exfoliate, hydrate, nourish, block the sun.

If you want truly fresh looking skin, you need to develop a habit of exfoliation. Exfoliating sloughs off dead skin cells, revealing the radiant skin beneath. A regular pattern of exfoliation followed by nourishing and hydrating will give you touchable, luminous skin you’ll be proud of.

An easy recipe for homemade exfoliator is: one tablespoon of granulated sugar mixed with enough lemon juice (or water, for more sensitive skin) to create a loose paste. Massage onto damp skin and rinse with warm water. Do this once or twice a week, depending on skin tolerance. If your skin is a little more dry and delicate, try using one tablespoon of almond meal mixed with one teaspoon of honey and enough olive oil to make a creamy texture. Message over the skin and rinse with warm water. Use this once a week.

Nourishing your skin keeps it lubricated and glowing. Masking produces a deep, instant result, and you can achieve it at home very easily. Simply cut an avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop out the flesh. Mash in a small bowl, and add two tablespoons of honey, which is a natural humectant and wonderful for dehydrated skin. Apply a layer to your face, neck and décolletage. If you’re a multitasker, you can use this time to depuff your eye area using cucumber slices. If you find that placing cold slices of cucumber over your closed eyelids chills the cornea unpleasantly, cut the cucumber slice in half to fit underneath the bottom lash. After ten minutes, rinse entire face with warm water.

Mother Nature provides all we need to gain and maintain beautiful skin, reminding us that our own mothers had it right – beauty really does come from within.

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